This op-ed is written by Anett Bősz MP, the leader of the Liberálisok party. She was elected to the National Assembly in 2018. Since December 2019 she sits with the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) fraction in the Hungarian Parliament.
The Authorisation Act came to the Hungarian Parliament on Monday 23 March. In order to be adopted, the Act required 4/5th majority, as it was a question of approving a proposal different from the standing orders. The entire opposition, in union, said that there must be a time constraint on this proposal. Furthering the problem, the government also would like to rewrite the Penal Code in a way so that whoever spreads “fake news” during the time of the epidemic, can be sentenced to prison.
The major practical concern with this is the following (of course, we have legal and moral concerns with this as well ): the official information in Hungary is dishonest. Therefore, if someone publishes a real statistic or a real picture (for example the status of protective gear), it would go against the governmental communication and could be interpreted as spreading rumours or fake news.
"This is the first time that Viktor Orbán faces an emergency or an enemy that has not been created by himself"
The whole opposition signed a motion in which we invited the governmental parties to try to find a compromise. Our offer was: we were ready to vote on differing from the standing orders due to the pandemic, but only if an end date were included in the new law - possibly 15 or 30 days, but even 60 days would have been acceptable. By the end, the two government parties promised that they would consider waiving the modification to the penal code, but they were unwilling to adopt the time constraint.
As soon as the bill failed to reach the 4/5th majority to be approved, the government started a discrediting campaign against the representatives of the opposition. The governmental propaganda machine began to portray opposition parties as traitors, and on social media, the spokespeople of the governmental parties began to speak about “perpetrators of crimes against the people”, others started speaking about “killers”, if the topic was about us representatives of the opposition.
The worst aspect of the situation is that, practically, Viktor Orbán and the governmental majority are using the coronavirus not only to prepare the building of the foundation for a singular, despotic rule, but they are also driving the Hungarian people against each other. It is a crime! In this present crisis, sympathy towards one another, solidarity, and working together is required to minimalise sacrifices and loss, both in healthcare and in the economy.
This is where we are right now. What is also interesting is that the “emergency case” announced by the government ends at midnight on 27 March. Therefore, we have arrived at an outlaw case: they have no authority to uphold the decrees that relate to the emergency such as the closing of schools, the closing of borders, or the instructions that discuss the responsibilities of municipal governments. I do not believe that the result of this would be that schools and borders would open again, or that any town or municipality would halt for example aiding the elderly, or I cannot imagine that kindergartens would be opened again, but it is an uncertain period in time.
"The government wants to blame this on the opposition but there is no doubt: they are responsible for the situation at hand"
The government wants to blame this on the opposition but there is no doubt: they are responsible for the situation at hand. I think this is also the responsibility of the two fraction leaders of the government parties. They were trying to force the opposition to accept the Authorisation Act but they did not want to find a compromise with setting an end date in it. The opposition is united in this endeavour to prevent the new Act from being accepted, but we are also united in supporting all measures to help fight the virus and minimalise the economic damage on the country. But we completely and obviously cannot stand for allowing the realisation of Viktor Orbán’s despotic rule.
We can be proud because while it seems obvious that our vote stands on moral grounds, and we say no to the Authorisation Act, the Prime Minister and his colleagues spent long hours in the plenary session trying to break us down earlier this week. We greatly appreciate all forms of external help that would strengthen us in our fight to prevent the unlimited power of Viktor Orbán.
This is the first time that Viktor Orbán faces an emergency or an enemy that has not been created by himself. The government does not feel the historic responsibility that would obligate them to co-operate with the opposition for the wellbeing of the Hungarian citizens and for limiting the economic damage.
All we can do with the members of the democratic opposition is to inform citizens through our own media channels of the situation. Next week, when the Act returns to Parliament, only a 2/3rd majority will be enough for it to be approved. But our acts were morally justifiable, and this was really important.
UPDATE (01/04): Anett Bősz spoke in the Hungarian Parliament on Tuesday 31 March following the adoption the day before of the Authorisation Act.